Chronological vs. Functional Resumes

Job searching, interviewing and hiring are all subjective processes.  Add resume building to that list.  There’s no 100% foolproof way to create a resume that everyone would agree is ideal.  So how do you know what’s “best?”

Today let’s look at the two primary types of resumes and some reasons why one might work better for you, given your situation.

A chronological resume is the most commonly used version.  You list your current or most recent position first, then your prior job, etc.

A functional (or skills) resume is the other version. It’s used less frequently, but for certain situations it’s your best bet.  Let’s explore in more detail.

Regardless of which version you chose, your goal should be to capture the reader’s attention within the top third of the page.  This means having a brief summary section, regardless of the version you use.

Here’s where the “it depends” phrase comes into play.  Use the chronological version when your recent experience aligns with the job for which you’re now applying.  You are, in effect, in a “round peg, round hole” scenario.  That’s a good thing!  On paper you show you’re doing pretty much the same sort of job you’d like to do next.  The reader should be able to see how you could easily slide into their opening.  Hence, the “round peg” aspect.

But what if your recent work is different from the job for which you’re now applying? The job titles don’t align and, likely, your job duties are largely dissimilar.  Here’s a case of you being in a “square peg, round hole” scenario.  If you went chronological, the reader wouldn’t see relevant functional areas and likely would simply ditch your resume for others more closely aligned with the job opening.

Functional resumes work well for those making a career change.  So now, just below your summary section, you’ll have a “Skills” section where you’ll highlight three of your most relevant transferrable skills.  And then, for each of those three skills, you’ll have two or three bullet points, each containing an example of an accomplishment tied to that particular skill or function.

Below your “Skills” section you’d still list your work history, but in a less detailed fashion.

Admittedly, readers are used to seeing the chronological format.  So when they come across a functional format, their initial reaction could be, “what are they hiding?”  Then again, if you go with the chronological format, the reader will likely say, “I just don’t see the fit here.”  The functional format is the better of your two options.  Just know it comes with some risk.

In future blogs I’ll dive deeper into specific areas of the resume, offering tips for dealing with age issues, industry changes, multiple jobs within the same company, and a host of other variables.

No two people have identical skills, education, experience, and goals.  That’s what makes resumes such an “it depends” proposition.  I hope today’s blog gives you a starting point as you go about your job search.  Good luck!